The ECtHR has handed down judgment on the issue of just satisfaction for Hungary’s violation of the Convention rights of Magyarországi Evangéliumi Testvérközösség [The Hungarian Evangelical Brotherhood].
The Evangelical Brotherhood has been active since 1981. Prior to the adoption of the new Church Act that came into force in January 2012, religious communities had been registered as Churches and received state funding. Under the new law, aimed at problems relating to the exploitation of state funds by certain Churches, only a number of recognised Churches continued to receive funding: all other religious communities – the Evangelical Brotherhood included – lost both their status as Churches and the corresponding benefits. They were, however, free to continue their religious activities as associations.
The Constitutional Court held certain provisions of the new Church Act unconstitutional – in particular, that only incorporated Churches were entitled to one percent of the personal income tax which could be earmarked by believers as donations – and the legislation was amended in 2013 to allow religious communities such as the applicants to refer to themselves once more as “Churches”. But the law still required them to apply to Parliament to be registered as incorporated Churches if they wished to regain the financial and tax advantages to which they had previously been entitled.
Relying on Article 11 (assembly and association) read in the light of Article 9 (thought, conscience and religion), the Brotherhood and several other Churches complained about their deregistration under the new law and the discretionary element of reregistration.
The earlier judgments
In its judgment on the merits on 8 April 2014, Magyar Keresztény Mennonita Egyház and Ors v Hungary  ECHR 552, which we noted at the time, the Court held that there had been a violation of Article 11 read in the light of Article 9. In particular, the authorities had disregarded their duty of neutrality by removing the applicant communities’ status as Churches altogether, rather than applying less stringent measures, by establishing a politically tainted reregistration procedure and by treating the applicants differently from the so-called incorporated Churches.In a separate judgment on just satisfaction, on 28 June 2016, the Court awarded damages to the total of €540,000, plus costs, to all the applicant religious communities – except for
In a separate judgment on just satisfaction, on 28 June 2016, the Court awarded damages to the total of €540,000, plus costs, to all the applicant religious communities – except for the Evangelical Brotherhood, in respect of which it held that the question of just satisfaction was not ready for decision and reserved it to a later date.
The latest judgment on just satisfaction
In Magyarországi Evangéliumi Testvérközösség v Hungary  ECHR (no. 54977/12), the Court noted that there was no dispute between the parties on the issue of compensation for the damage sustained in 2015, notably for the loss of personal income tax donations and the corresponding supplementary state subsidy, the loss of state subsidies intended to support the Brotherhood’s social and educational institutions, the loss of subsidies for religious teaching and the loss of salary supplement payable to staff employed by church institutions providing public-interest services . It therefore agreed unanimously to award the Brotherhood a lump sum of €3,000,000 for its financial loss, covering the damages already acknowledged by the Government and the Brotherhood’s loss of opportunities, and €2,250 for costs and expenses.